Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Baked: Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

This was the weekly recipe on August Cooks, a cooking blog in which I contribute.

I haven't had Nutella since I was a kid, and had almost forgotten how good it is.

Delicious. Go and make these. Right now.

From Cooking Light


  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso (optional) [I used coffee liqueur instead]
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts, toasted [I skipped these]
  • 1/3 cup hazelnut-chocolate spread (such as Nutella)


1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt; stir with a whisk. Place butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Stir egg yolks with a whisk, adding espresso, if desired. Add the yolk mixture and vanilla to butter; beat well. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. [I mixed it in with a fork; if you beat it, the dry ingredients will go flying.]
3. Turn dough out onto a sheet of wax paper; knead 6 times or until smooth and shiny. Shape dough into 28 (1-inch) balls. Roll sides of balls in nuts, pressing gently. Arrange balls 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press thumb into center of each cookie, leaving an indentation. Bake, 1 batch at a time, at 350° for 10 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Spoon a scant 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut-chocolate spread into center of each cookie.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


This past weekend, I completed Week 2 Day 2 of C25k.

As I mentioned last week, this is my third attempt to learn to like running. I've always hated running, but quite frankly - I needed a way to exercise that was free.

The first year that I decided to give it a try, I vastly overestimated my fitness level and started off way too hard for a beginner. My first run, with a runner friend, was at the Queen's Park track; when I started feeling dizzy after only half a loop (about 400m), I thought I was doomed. (Have I mentioned that I hate doing things when I'm not immediately brilliant?)

The second year, I achieved some success. I found a virtual running buddy in Andrea, and the opportunity to gloat report to each other, as well as my upcoming wedding, kept me motivated for a few weeks. But I still dreaded each run, and when wedding planning became hectic, I found an excuse to let Attempt #2 fizzle.

This time, I'm finally following the Couch to 5k program (which I really should have done when Andrea started it last year), and what a difference it has been. I'm actually looking forward to strapping on those shoes - whoa!

What did I do differently this time around?
  1. Start slow. Really slow. Week 1 of C25k consists of three workouts in which you alternate 60s of jogging with 90s of walking. Totally doable, right? Believing KNOWING that I can do it has made a world of difference in my willingness to go out and do the run.
  2. Get real. During Attempt #2, I told myself that I'd do my runs in the morning before work. I am NOT a morning person. I managed it several times, but not happily. As a result, I started associating running with the dread of early mornings - not a great way to stay focused. This time around, I'm fitting my runs into my evenings, which is much more in tune with how my body works.
  3. Get a buddy, preferably one who is at the same level as you. Reporting back and forth with Andrea helped me get much farther in Attempt #2 than Attempt #1. I now have a network of three others, which has been amazingly motivating.
  4. Just do it. Doing it always feels better than NOT doing it.
I'm pumped for week 3!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Baked: Chocolate Chip Cookie-Brownie-Cake Thing

Text from my husband: Need eggs for cookies!

I arrive home. I smell baking.

"Are you baking?"


"Did you get eggs?"


"Oh. What did you use instead?"

"I added some cornstarch and water."


The oven beeps. Mr. Ringy pops this onto the cooling rack:

"Um, honey? Why is it so thick?"

"I didn't realize that the recipe was for 60 cookies."

But just as I finished saying, "Perhaps you should leave the baking to me in the future," I popped a piece in my mouth. And... it's delicious. It's like a chocolate chip cookie/brownie/cake thing.

Anyway, here's the original recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. He tells me that, in place of the eggs, he used about a tablespoon of cornstarch, and enough water to make the dough look "right".

Yields 60 cookies
  • 1/2  cup  shortening
  • 1/2  cup  butter
  • 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 2    eggs
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla
  • 2-1/2  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1  12-ounce package (2 cups)  semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1-1/2  cups  chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts (filberts) (optional)
    In a large mixing bowl beat the shortening and butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and baking soda. Beat mixture until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour. Stir in chocolate pieces and, if desired, nuts.

    Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree F oven 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

    Make-Ahead Tip: Bake and cool cookies completely. In an airtight or freezer container, arrange cookies in a single layer; cover with a sheet of waxed paper. Repeat layers, leaving enough air space to close container easily. Seal, label, and freeze up to 1 month.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    C25k update

    I do my running on the dirt path around Queen's Park.

    View Larger Map

    I usually go around 5:30 in the evening which is prime rush hour on the busy road around the park; lots of drivers get to witness my C25k journey.

    I've noticed that a lot of people look out their windows and watch the runners while they're sitting in traffic. I like to tell myself that they must be thinking how awesome we are.

    C25k progress: Week 1 complete, and I feel great! I can definitely feel that it's been getting progressively easier, and I also recovered more quickly from the second day than I did from the first.

    Cat-related business: naptime

    Boy, does Sherlock sleep a lot.

    In his bed...
    ...on the window sill...
    ...on top of the couch,
    ... or in a ball.
    Hmm. It's 1:00 AM. Perhaps I should take his lead.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    C U 2nite?

    Victor and I will be singing in a fundraiser concert for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind tonight.

    We were chatting about the event with Greg, a member of our church choir who has 5% vision. He is registered with the CNIB and was interested in attending.

    "So, we'll see you there then?" we asked.

    "Well, you might see me... but I won't see you," he replied.

    We had a hearty guffaw at that one. Thanks, Greg!

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Break time

    My church has a new music director, Bruno. Last night was his first rehearsal with our choir.

    We normally rehearse on Thursday nights from 7:30 to 9:30.

    Around 8:30, he asked, "Do you usually have a break?"

    "No," we replied.

    "What?! Oh gosh, you need a break. Let's take ten."

    It had never even occurred to me before, but this new policy is going to be so good for the choir. Obviously it'll be a little easier to get through the two-hour rehearsals, but I think that the chance to socialize a little more will build the cohesiveness of the group, which in turn can only help us make better music.

    I am excited for this year.

    Don't forget to take ten every now and then!

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010


    ... breeds efficiency.

    I can't take credit for this. Apparently it was a favourite saying of my friend Eric's dad.

    In other news, I've begun the Couch to 5k program. This will be my third attempt in three years to achieve something with running. I just did Week 1 Workout 1. Wish me luck!

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Baked: Lemon Ricotta Cookies

    Ever since we remodeled our kitchen back in April, spending time in the kitchen has been much more enjoyable. As a result, I've been doing a lot more baking. Cookies are my favourite.

    Last week, I had a hunkering for something lemony, so I whipped up a batch of Giada De Laurentiis' Lemon Ricotta Cookies.

    Yields: 44 cookies

        * 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
        * 1 teaspoon baking powder
        * 1 teaspoon salt
        * 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
        * 2 cups sugar
        * 2 eggs
        * 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
        * 3 tablespoons lemon juice
        * 1 lemon, zested

        * 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
        * 3 tablespoons lemon juice
        * 1 lemon, zested

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

    In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

    In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

    Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

    Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Pack the cookies into a decorative container.

    The result

    The cookies turned out light, airy and moist, almost like ladyfingers, but also had a really nice richness from the ricotta. I loved the cookies on their own and didn't feel that they needed the glaze. The glaze was intense - like lemon candy - and it really overpowers the cookie, even though I had doubled the lemon juice in the cookie. Depending on what you want, I'd suggest trying the cookies on their own before deciding whether or not to add the glaze. (I think that the naked cookies are great with a cup of tea, but perhaps you like candy-like cookies, as my husband does!) You could also try substituting some of the lemon juice in the glaze with water.

    One more subtle tip about the directions: you'll make your life a little easier if you beat the butter first, before mixing in the sugar. This is the standard procedure in Better Homes and Gardens recipes that I always use; it's a good way to cheat if you're like me and always forget to let the butter thaw.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Go Daddy!

    On Saturday, I headed to Wasaga Beach to cheer on my brother in his first sprint triathlon.

    At the finish line, I stood next to this little girl. There she is, waving her purple pom poms and doing her little cheerleader dance, cheering for her daddy.

    Goooo Daddy! WOOOO!
    Daddy had the biggest smile as he crossed the finish line.

    My brother did pretty good too. Way to go Kevin!

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Bottoms up

    I've been on a committee interviewing candidates for a new music director at my church.

    The two top candidates were neck-and-neck as far as qualifications. In the end, selecting the successful candidate came down to this:

    "I'd really like to go and have a drink with that person."

    So, the next time you're looking for a new job - drink up!


    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    The sauce that tastes good on everything

    Japanese kewpie dressing. It's a sesame-flavoured, MSG-enhanced vinaigrette.

    Awesome salad dressing. Great for cold or warm pastas.

    Today I'm having it tossed with cold linguine and strips of cucumber.
    I don't even like cucumber. But this makes it taste awesome.

    I have no idea what the label says, and if they ever change the packaging, I might be screwed. If you're looking for it, it may also be labeled as Baisen Goma dressing.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Dim Sum = Touch the Heart

    I went out for dim sum today with a group of friends.

    One of the guys in the group was a dim sum virgin. He also turned out to be one of the best people I've ever dined with.

    He only learned to use chopsticks a few years ago. How? He bought himself a pair, and ate with them every day at home until he mastered it. (He was picking up mango pudding with chopsticks!)

    As a kid, he didn't like the taste of shrimp. But one day, at age 21, he decided not to dislike any foods. So he ate shrimp until he learned to like it.

    He even tried chicken feet. (Didn't love them, but he was a great sport about it.)

    I don't think I've ever dined with anyone so open-minded. I've dined with plenty of people who love food and will eat anything, but never someone who's so persistent in getting over food aversions. I really don't like picky eaters. He was the opposite.

    Cheers to food!

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    Making music

    When I was a kid, my dad asked me what an orchestra conductor does - other than just waving his arms. I didn't know.

    I’ve been involved in choirs for the last ten years, and had the opportunity to guest conduct a couple of rehearsals and masses with my church choir. So now I know.

    The conductor PLAYS the ensemble, the same way a musician plays his instrument. It’s more than waving your arms and keeping time. It’s about shaping the music.

    I’m fascinated by the whole process. As a pianist, my brain tells my fingers and hands to move in a way that causes the piano translate certain sounds.

    Thought > movement > sound

    Conducting is similar, but way more complicated because of the extra middle man. The conductor translates his musical vision into what I like to call the "conductor's dance". Then the musicians have to interpret the dance, figure out what it means for sound, then play their instrument to produce that sound. Then good ensemble musicians check if they’re in sync with the conductor by seeing if the conductor is dancing along to what they are playing.

    Thought > movement > (interpretation into) thought > movement > sound > movement

    All this translation of one thing into another reminds me of any organization with a leader and some minions, or supply chain, no? And so the world continues to spin.

    An excerpt from Handel's Messiah that I performed in two years ago, conducted by my dear friend, Matthew Otto. Check out his broad strokes for the majestic "Surely" and "And With His Stripes", his crouch and smooth movements for the gentler parts "He hath borne our grief and carried our sorrows", his lively bounce in "All We Like Sheep", and his precision for "He trusted in God". And you can't even see the faces he's making at us.

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    Condo living: appliances

    It's time for a new washer. Mine is about ten years old and no longer remembers how to stop filling with water.

    Small space living (I'm talking 550 sq ft) has its unique set of challenges. Shopping for furniture and appliances is one of them.

    I'd imagine that when normal people need to make a major purchase, like an appliance, they follow a series of steps, something like this:
    1. Think about the needed features
    2. Set a budget
    3. Ask friends and family for recommendations
    4. Do some research into different brands and models, and shop around at different stores
    5. Compare models and prices, and narrow down the field
    6. Settle on the model and the store, and place the order
    As for me?

    Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't make such a major purchase without any research at all. But after asking my lovely Nesties and poking around on various websites, I realized that it came down to this:

    "Hi. Can you show me the smallest (insert appliances here) you have?"
    "Sure. There's this one, and that one."
    "This one will fit. I'll take it."

    And that's how I settled on this cute little Whirlpool number. Capacity = 2.3 cu ft of glory. Oh yeah.